Two years ago, in the midst of a run to an Ivy League Championship, senior Hayden Carlson ’18 talked to Team 145 about one of his favorite moments as a Yale football player: the day we get the Y on our helmets. He spoke about what it represented to him and the significance of wearing the hallowed letter. The immensity of what Hayden said and the profound responsibility it bestows on each Yale football player is something that I don’t believe I’ve appreciated until the onset of my senior season. As our last game approaches, I wanted to take this chance not to talk about X’s and O’s, or Team 147’s accomplishments, but what makes it so special to wear the Y on your helmet in my own words.

For the class of 2020, these past four years have been a roller coaster. From ending Harvard’s ten-year win streak on its home field our first year, winning an outright Ivy Title in our second, and experiencing heartbreak at Fenway our third, we’ve certainly etched a unique place in the record books.

What I’ve discovered in the years since Hayden’s speech is that the Y represents the individual identity of each member of the team as much as it symbolizes this great university. Wearing the Y means you are part of something bigger than yourself. You wear it for those whose sacrifice allows you to strap up your helmet for practice on a Tuesday. You wear it for your high school coach, your grandpa who never got to see you play a college snap, and your dad who took you to your first football game. You wear it for your teammate’s mom who worked two jobs to put food on the table and still found time to take him to practice every night. You wear it for the heroes who motivated him to achieve his goals and for kids who’ll never have the chance to play the game.

You wear it because there are 105 men that count on you to always do your job, no more and no less, no matter the circumstance. You bear their burdens, their stories and their pain on your shoulders because one day they might not be able to carry it themselves. On that day you’ll be able to look your brother in the eye and say, “I got you,” and he will not doubt you for a second. This is a love that is formed in the crucible of battle and hardened by a collective pursuit of excellence. It stands tests of adversity because it is rooted in a profound understanding that wearing the Y is not about the individual, but about the unit.

The Y also represents all those that have played before us and evokes the many years of tradition that precede us. From Walter Camp’s ironmen, to Calvin Hill and Carm Cozza, thousands have contributed to this program’s countless wins and national championships. It is the duty of each player that wears the Y to proudly carry on the program’s culture and values. 

If Team 147 is remembered for anything, I hope it’s for displays of love and sacrifice that have characterized the last 10 weeks. I hope we are remembered as a group of young men that was willing to go the distance for a cause greater than ourselves. I’ll wear the Y for the last time this Saturday in the Bowl in front of 60,000 of my closest friends and alongside 105 brothers. As I take it off for the last time, I’ll hope that we’ve left this program better than we found it. I’ll hope that the next group to wear the Y understands the honor that it is to don the uniform. Most of all, I’ll be incredibly grateful to have worn it myself and proud to watch on for years to come. To Team 147: I love you guys and can’t wait to ride one more time. See you Saturday (and many Wednesdays to come).

Josh Keeler is a senior in Timothy Dwight College and defensive lineman on Team 147. 

Contact him joshua.keeler@yale.edu